OPSEU President calls on government to increase funding for COVID-19 testing labs

OPSEU/SEFPO President 'Smokey' Thomas speaking

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is calling on the Ford government to increase hospital funding for laboratories to meet COVID-19 testing targets.  

In its Fall Preparedness Plan, the Ford government has promised to expand COVID-19 testing targets to 50,000 tests per day, with 80 per cent of all test results to be returned within 48 hours, and also committed to reduce assessment wait times by opening up testing at pharmacies for people without symptoms.  

However, Thomas says the plan fails to address the heavy demand on lab technicians and technologists at COVID-19 testing laboratories, where swabs from assessment centres are sent for analysis.  

“We are seeing lower wait times for the public to get tested but the strain on our lab professionals is still just as high, with no end in sight,” said Thomas. “To truly meet testing targets, our hospitals need more funding to address staffing shortages and to purchase more testing equipment.”

Chair of OPSEU’s Hospital Professionals Division, Sara Labelle, noted that hospital lab technicians and technologists have been working long hours to meet testing targets since the pandemic began, but would need significantly more resources should the government’s testing commitments continue to increase.

“These workers have been under a lot of pressure for the past seven months,” said Labelle. “This pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon, and the government needs to make sure that they have a solid long-term plan in place for labs and lab professionals to meet the high testing demand.”

In his recent daily briefings, Premier Doug Ford stated that the government intends to reach out to colleges, universities, and private sector laboratories to assist with the province’s current testing backlog.  

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says that rather than outsourcing work to for-profit laboratories, the government should focus on hiring more front-line lab workers as well as utilizing the skilled lab technicians and technologists in our public hospitals who are currently working in other areas of lab testing.  

“We have lab techs in our hospitals registered to work in multiple disciplines, who can assist in labs doing COVID-19 test analysis,” said Almeida. “Instead of putting money into for-profit labs, the government should be looking at how to support workers at our public hospitals in meeting the necessary testing targets.”  

For more information:
OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas: 613-329-1931  
OPSEU Hospital Professionals Division Chair, Sara Labelle: 905-914-4037